‘Tis the time of year for holiday books and I say the more the better! Eight Days of Christmas is a debut that I thought captured the spirit of Christmas while keeping me engaged in the love story. It had a few flaws that took me out of the story and I wish had been addressed but I would recommend this book as a fun, holiday read.
Isabella Whitley hasn’t been back to her hometown in 10 years, but her sister is getting married on Christmas Day so she goes back, knowing there will be no avoiding her high school love Leo, as it’s his brother that’s marrying her sister. She has given no explanation to him or her family as to why she never returned so there are secrets waiting to be spilled and emotions are running high. The book’s title comes from the Whitley family tradition of partaking in a winter activity every day leading up to Christmas and to her shock and anger, Leo has not only been invited to join her family in these activities, it seems he has effectively taken her place in the years she’s been gone. For the sake of both of their siblings, Isabella and Leo decide on a somewhat shaky truce for the few days she’s in town, which leads to a reemergence of feelings, and finally an answer as to why she has been avoiding him all this time. There are so many tropes at work here (forced proximity, second chance romance, childhood sweethearts) that I’m surprised they all work but they do. Leo and Isabella are the stars of the story and as such are the most fully realized characters, but Landon (his brother) and Norah (her sister) play a fairly large role as well. There are some moments that I wanted to yell at the characters to be adults and to say what they want but as in life, that’s a hard thing to do. The emotions in this book felt real to me and the reason why Isabella has stayed away for so long wasn’t over the top for the sake of the story, so the rekindling of her romance with Leo felt natural. This book does a great job of making me nostalgic for simpler times where Christmas didn’t seem to slip by in the blink of an eye and it made me long for days off spent baking cookies, making snowmen, and drinking hot cocoa. If you’re looking for a book that captures the fun that Christmas can bring, you won’t be disappointed here. As far as the love story goes, there are no surprises here but it’s a sweet one with a cute rom-com grand gesture at the end that is very fitting to the story. Overall, the story was charming and a good addition to this year’s Christmas themed romances.
Now, to the things that I found odd or I couldn’t get past. The more serious issue I had was the hints and subtle nods to possible problems in Norah and Landon’s relationship and then…nothing. There’s no substantial discussion about it between any of the characters other than the typical “are you ready to get married/pre-wedding jitters” conversation towards the end of the book that both Leo and Isabella have with their siblings. Why write about Landon’s wandering eye or Norah’s dour expressions when discussing her wedding if there is no point to them? My only guess is that DeKruyf is setting something up for the second book but if that was the case, I wish there had been a bit more explanation at the end to hint at that. The other less serious issue I had was that at one point in the book, Leo and Isabella find themselves at the local bar with their respective friend groups on karaoke night. Knowing that Leo is not one to say no to a dare, Isabella dares him to join her on stage for a duet, singing “their song” from when they were dating in high school. Given that they are 29 -years- old and the book takes place in 2021, you would expect the song to be something popular from when they were in high school, around 2008-2010. Instead, we’re told that their song is “Endless Love” by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, a song that came out a decade before either of them was even born. Could this be a song they heard growing up? Sure. And this song has been covered by other artists. But of all the songs to use for this, it seems like an odd choice and I highly doubt 16-year-olds in 2008 were requesting “Endless Love” at the high school dance. This moment took me right out of the story. I don’t think most readers would even notice something like this, but issues of pop culture relevance and the importance of making sure your characters are into the things they would like, not the things you as the author would like, have been discussed frequently in Romancelandia, so I am especially aware of things like this now. Did this ruin the book for me? Absolutely not. But it did stop me in my tracks when I read it.
Eight Days of Christmas captures the fun of Christmas and the longing for a place to call home in a sweet and fun way. This book is just one of many holiday themed romances being released this year but it’s definitely one I would recommend and I think it would be perfect to bring with on a holiday trip for when you’re missing home or loved ones.
P.S. Did anyone else notice the call out to “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?” Do you think that was on purpose or a coincidence?
Author: Starla DeKruyf
Published: October 19, 2021
Rating: 4 Stars
*Thank you to City Owl Press and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review*